Saturday, November 9, 2019

Dr. Why: Midterm (Mutants and Masterminds Hero High)


  1. Setup
  2. Orientation
  3. Pop Quiz
  4. Midterm
  5. Term Paper
  6. Final



Ages run the gamut from Geodesic (age 14) to Bruiser (age 24)

  • Alex Hanson (actually Ak'hanezakhar), the exiled alien princess.
  • Bruiser is actually Matthew Brady.
  • Geodesic is Dana Mehr, dressed as Kid Dr. Doom.
  • Tech-Head we're just calling Tech-Head, but his real name is Clark Wayne.

Innocent bystanders

Watching the VR experiences are Dr. Maya Nayar, Priya's mother, and Technologists Hadir el Haj and Garry Mantish.

Nameless occupants of a nearby building. I think they work for Google.

Villain group: The Manifest

For the players: I'm using the villain names as I created them, which are not the names we called them by in play: I called ersatz Kneebreaker "Fragile"; ersatz Lime Lantern is actually "Bubblewrap;" the teleporter is "Transit;" and the steampunky person is "Cargo." Or Bob, Carla, Lenny, and Sofia, respectively. And they forgot to say their names, or their group names, or explain why they really needed the suit back.

Between classes, we deal with a couple of things.

  • Geodesic hides the coin on a near-earth asteroid. His research in the time between classes shows him that no coins have been provably destroyed, but they are disappearing.

  • Hunter starts haunting Tech-Head's house. She's not hiding, but she has apparently been told that she's allowed to stand on the sidewalk but not on private property. (Clark waves to her sometimes.) Clark—Tech-head—spends a lot of time in his secret lab, deciphering the secrets of the power source.

  • Alex is probably amused by Priya's increasingly desperate attempts to keep the two from meeting.

  • Bruiser is getting a lot of flak from coworkers because they are short-handed, now that one of their members has been arrested.

And now we get to the midterm.

The midterm is to be a case study: the students are divided into teams of 4 and put into virtual reality. They get to re-enact a famous superhero battle as the heroes involved, with their own agency to change things moving from none at the beginning to full by halfway through. Afterward the students must answer questions.

Because (a) there are 16 students and not enough VR crèches and (b) something always goes wrong when superheroes go into VR, three teams of four go into the crèches at the Deja View institute downtown (at the intersection of King St. and Charles St., for locals) and the remaining four are a guard. Dr. Why isn't even there; he's at the place where they'll write the test.

Not surprisingly, Our Heroes are put on a team together. They win the draw between teams (well, rock-paper-scissors, actually) and elect to be guard rather than go into the VR crèches in the first round.

If (when) something goes wrong, note that it takes five minutes to safely bring someone out of the VR crèche.

The neurologist who is supervising at Deja View is Priya's mother. The lab is a large room on the ground floor with two exits (one fire, one hall). The crèches are arranged in a clock dial pattern around a central control dais. The room is about a storey and a half all with big tiles in a drop ceiling. (This becomes important later.) (Clearly this is a two-storey room that has been converted.) Dr. Nayar is there with two assistants. It was not clear whether she knows who Alex is.

Everything starts fine, as it usually does. Ten minutes in the exterior wall explodes inward. Standing there are four villains in non-thematic costumes, three in powered armor-ish suits and one not. The suits look like they're variants on those of known villains, like someone was paying them homage or updating them. They are:

  • Fragile, wearing an outfit reminiscent of Kneebreaker, a minor-league villain whose schtick was weakening objects like vault doors until he could hit them with a sledge hammer and break them. Keebreaker was a one-and-done villain of a local hero.
  • Bubblewrap is wearing a glowing blue-green forcefield reminiscent of the Lime Lantern. The force field is opaque below the neck. Bubblewrap is female.
  • Cargo is wearing a very steampunk armor. It doesn't look like it's actually steam powered, but there are whirring gears on the outside (behind Lexan covers). Cargo's goggles are pushed up on his/her/its brow, probably because the eyeholes don't provide a lot of view and the goggles would just reduce it further. The probable power source is mounted on the back and the whole thing seems heavy enough that there are whining servos and gyros every time Cargo moves.
  • Transit is in a full-body purple bodysuit (snug but not skin-tight.) There are D-rings all over it, as if he expects to have things strapped to him. He has heavy boots on, and is male. (We cannot tell the gender of the other two.)

Bubblewrap says, "We're just here for his suit. Nobody else needs to be alarmed." She points directly at Tech-Head.

Geodesic's answer is to cover the three innocent bystanders at the central control panel, along with a created tunnel that leads to the interior door.

Tech-Head's answer is to book it for the fire exit and take off. (Tech-Head has flight 6.)

Bubblewrap and Fragile follow. Bubblewrap has flight 7, and Keebreaker has flight 5. (After two rounds, Fragile cannot keep up and turns back to help the others.)

The fight is surprisingly ineffective, because Geodesic is busy maintaining his sorcerous construct, the bystanders are not interested in leaving yet because it takes five minutes to bring people out from the VR, and Transit is just watching, almost as if it was his job to bring people here but not necessarily to fight. Cargo and Bruiser miss each other for a while, but eventually Cargo connects and it becomes obvious that Cargo is stronger and tougher than Bruiser.

The innocent bystander assistants do rock-paper-scissors and the winner leaves (after getting assurances from Dr. Nayar that this won't affect his annual bonus).

Eventually Fragile returns and nothing in the fight gets better. A wild miss from Alex damages a nearby building through the hole in the wall. Geodesic notes the design flaws in Cargo's suit and comments loudly about them. Finally Transit teleports into the construct and threatens to kill the two innocent bystanders if people don't quit.

Geodesic drops the force wall and makes Cargo's helmet unusable, twisting it to one side.

Alex, now berserk, shoots.

And misses, in one of the four ones that Brian (the player) rolled in a row. Ceiling damage, and Dr. Nayar is hurt with the falling debris.

Geodesic does first aid, and Alex shoots again, missing but doing more damage to the nearby building and making it structurally unsound. (Unfortunately, Brian keeps rolling ones.)

Bubblewrap pleads with Tech-Head during the catch-and-escape cycle, saying that Mastermind is really expecting that suit tomorrow. Tech-Head radios the police that an employee of Mastermind is responsible for the property damage. Bubblewrap responds with a loudspeaker announcement that Tech-Head’s suit is stolen.

Having returned, Fragile puts the whammy on Bruiser and Cargo’s next shot dazes him.

Alex blames the villains for hurting her girlfriend’s mother and more collateral damage happens.

Tech-Head dives into a nearby lake and swims upstream, out of sight. Bubblewrap has to guess which of two feeder rivers that Tech-Head goes up but guesses right.

Tech-Head does not surface for fear that Bubblewrap is watching, as she is.

Transit tries to get Geodesic but fails, then teleports Dr. Nayar away.

Fragile falls—I think to Geodesic but I might be incorrect. Transit disappears; Cargo picks up the fallen Fragile to leave at a mind-numbing 100 kilometres per hour but Alex isn’t done yet. She flies to Cargo and damages Cargo’s collateral, then starts riding Fragile and Cargo to the ground.

Transit blips in and moves them to Bubblewrap: Transit, Cargo, Fragile...and Alex. The two unconscious ones fall into the river, Alex can fly, and Transit blips to the nearby sewage treatment plant.

Geodesic and Bruiser spend some time rescuing foolish people who thought being in a nearby building would protect them.

Alex is still angry and still cannot aim, so the water treatment plant takes a tremendous shot. Then Bubblewrap takes a shot, and we discover that Alex can aim (when Brian is not rolling a one).

Geodesic arrives. Bubblewrap deals with Geodesic while Alex is trying to deal with Transit, but she cannot find him.

The sewage treatment plant takes a lot of damage.

Bruiser arrives and they manage to calm Alex down, but Bubblewrap is out of the fight.

Tech-Head notices the three falling figures in the water and drags Cargo to shore.

Geodesic gets Bubblewrap and discovers that the green force-field is generated by a pendant, which his magic detector helpfully tells him is magic because of a coin-shaped object inside.

He spends a lot of time getting the pendant, but he succeeds.

In the meantime, Bruiser gets Fragile.

While their attention is elsewhere, Transit spirits Cargo away.

The four are excused from the mid-term if they want, but Tech-Head insists on taking it anyway because he likes to show how smart he is.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Dr. Why: Pop Quiz (Mutants and Masterminds Hero High)


  1. Setup
  2. Orientation
  3. Pop Quiz
  4. Midterm
  5. Term Paper
  6. Final


We have names!

  • Alex Hanson is actually Ak'hanezakhar, exiled alien princess.
  • Bruiser is actually Matthew Brady.
  • Tech-Head we're just calling Tech-Head (though as stated last time, his normal ID is Clark Wayne)

This session

This information is as I remember it. I might be wrong or have jumbled the chronology; corrections accepted.


The first session was on a Wednesday in September. The following Monday morning, at Dana's (Geodesic's) home, he is being home-schooled about the French and Indian Wars when the doorbell rings. It's two agents from the Bureau of Extremely Foreign Affairs: a man and a woman in the kind of bland anonymous suits that get issued rather than purchased. Both visitors are brown-skinned, but his is a normal sort of brown colour and hers reminds one of tree-bark. She is also shorter than he is by more than half a meter. They provide identification (Guy Beech and Fay Hunter). He does the talking. They would like to speak to Dana alone. His mother reluctantly leaves the room.

They suspect that Dr. Why is up to something but they don't know what. They can't tell because Dr. Why has forbidden items like Go-Pros in the class (the mechanism is unknown, but active smartphone cameras or Go-Pros burn out while cyborg and suit mechanisms do not). Dr. Why has forbidden the college from recording any of the classes.

If Dana sees anything out of the ordinary, could he please report it? Sufficient important information could lead to a scholarship at the Canadian university of Dana's choice.

They hand Dana a thick lovely ornate card.

Once they leave, Dana aka Geodesic of course examines it and finds the electronic device inside it. He assumes it is a tracking device and isolates it after memorizing the contact information in case it is someday useful.

The next day, Clark Wayne (Tech-Head) finds the same BEFA agents when he comes home from school. The visit is not quite the same. Possibly being in the vicinity of the power source affects Agent Hunter because she's twitchy in this visit and cannot contain herself toward the end.

Same offer and they're getting ready to leave when she blurts out, “It has a name!” The name, it turns out, is Pandora, and she is on the team because she's a magic sniffer. She can find unshielded magic items. Agent Beech gets her out of there quickly after that.

Clark does some research and there are several things that Pandora might be, but the one that ties most directly to magic is a green energy source that was released in redacted form and then re-classified about twelve hours later. Apparently it opens a gate to another universe and takes the energy from there. Also, the inhabitants are not happy.

Several weeks later, it is time for class.

One guy on the construction crew says that though there is usually a poker game on Wednesday nights (Matthew Brady often goes but it conflicts with this course, so he hasn’t lately) says there is no poker night tonight. “I got a family thing.” The guy sighs: since his mom died a decade ago, dad has not been himself.

Alex has moved in with Attractive Woman Who Was Just There For The Talk At The Beginning—Priya Nayyar—who is somewhat concerned about Alex bringing home a couple for social unification last night. Since “social unification” is indistinguishable from “sexual intercourse” for Alex, Priya is confused and hurt.

“I thought we had a relationship!”

“We do.”

“I let you stay here even though my mother—”

“Your mother must be a lovely person because you are a lovely person.”

Let's just say that Alex is late to the class.


The first half of the class is uneventful. They have dispensed with the Hannibal Lecter mask and the number of security guards is reduced but still non-zero. Officer Kit Lawson is there operating the slides. (Cut-above security guard was there the next week but not this week.)

At break, Alex and Matthew and about half the class head out to get coffee (the school has cooking and restaurant classes, so there is a restaurant and a student-run coffee-bar on campus). It's a slight hike because the classroom is on the second (top) floor of one of the non-auditorium buildings.

Tech-Head has his force field up (because that's what one should do within a hundred meters of Dr. Why) and asks about Pandora.

Dr. Why blandly replies that he knows about the legendary Pandora, who opened the box of troubles.

Geodesic asks if Dr. Why is magical. Dr. Why's response is that he can certainly use magical artifacts, which he sometimes has access to because he knows magical people.

The lights flicker. When they come back to full strength, there are two men standing there wearing costumes. The older one of them announces that Dr. Why will now suffer for what was done to him.

(Tech-Head's response is, “Tell us some backstory.” Answer: A decade ago, Dr. Why's actions killed this man's wife. So Dr. Why is going to pay, and people here are going to die.)

Tech-Head: “And that's where you lost my sympathy. Threatening to kill people who don't have a connection to Dr. Why.”

The older villain says, “Present?”

The younger one is apparently a speedster, and he punches Tech-Head into the next round.

When the rest get back from their break, the guy in the bunny costume (who calls himself "Narcolepus, hopping through your dreams") tries to open the door. He cannot.

Bruiser tries and rips the doorknob off. Alex pokes at the knob on the other side and it falls out of the hole but then thumps softly as it hits the door, being held in place.

The non-PC students wonder what to do. Is it a test? Maybe they should call the police or something?

Bruiser then punches the door. It splinters and then re-forms. It's not intact, it's still shattered, but the pieces have moved back in place like the wall is held in jelly. Bruiser theorizes that someone could jump in before it re-forms, but no one bothered to do that. Bruiser is annoyed.

Alex high-tails it outside to a spot where she can't be seen and flies to the roof, where she puts on a mask and changes clothes to the outfit she thinks will be her superhero outfit. There is a skylight to the classroom.


The student who can turn into a big shaggy yeti (or a raven) clutches her head and falls over, unconscious.


Bruiser punches the door and then jumps in before it can re-form.

Alex shoots the skylight and attempts to fly in, but fails. (Alex's player rolled several ones during the evening; I believe this was one of them.) She succeeded on her next turn.


Then Present, the older man, waves his arms, pointing at each person, and they have to make Will saves. To the people who fail the roll, they are alone in the room.

Geodesic and Bruiser fail their Will saves.

This is taking much longer to recount than I thought. On the plus side, that means my memory is not as bad as I thought; on the minus side, this is tedious, both for you and me. In point form, and less concerned with maintaining a strict account that lists everything:

  • Tech-Head can't connect with either of them, but having spied the cool spot in the shape of a woman floating near one corner, decides to concentrate on that. Highlights include throwing some hummus against the wall.
  • Narcolepus helpfully shouts through the door handle hole that there's a ghost. He'll try to engage in mental combat.
  • Geodesic can't see anyone but can keep up the mental link with Tech-Head he had conveniently set up before the appearance of Past, Present, and Future. With Tech-Head's guidance, he puts Present in a force bubble and squeezes.
  • Future and Present demonstrate the castling effect, and then Future vibrates free.
  • Bruiser decides to hit the floor and see if he can spot anyone else in the next classroom. This shatters the floor, which then re-forms. Remember that for later.
  • Alex enters.
  • The ghost that is Past enters Geodesic's body to try to possess him. He is delighted because then his telekinesis that works against spirits is really likely to hit.
  • Tech-Head scores a nice shot against Present and suddenly everyone can see everyone else.
  • Geodesic moves the ghost sixteen miles away, punching through the create...and the room falls apart. People fell into the classroom below, students were knocked unconscious, Future quit and Present took away his powers...
  • At some point, Bruiser became aware of who Future actually was. So far as I recall, he didn't share this knowledge.
  • Once Present was knocked out (no defenses, remember), the ghost vanished.

(I have new appreciation for James.)


Tech-Head strips Present of nearly everything and finds on him a small gold coin, with a woman's face on one side and what looks like the snake of Asculepius on the other, except the snake is coiled around a torch, not a staff. (I said a sheaf of wheat in the actual session, but apparently Eris is usually depicted with a torch in one hand and a hissing adder in the other, so I take the opportunity to correct myself.) As he looks at it, the woman's face winks at him.

He gives the coin to Geodesic.

As Geodesic looks at it, he clearly hears the woman saying, “What power do you desire?”

NPCs: The rest of the class

Because we might need to know names, here are the other students in the class.

  • Not Costumed:
    • Megan Bay (claims that she wants to work with some kind of hero support...maybe emergency services, maybe counselling)
    • Thomas Gelman (quiet, keeps to himself)
    • Sheila Norton
    • Nichole Rodrigues (shapeshifter; vehemently denies this is her real appearance)
    • Douglas Rodgers
    • Chelsea Wolfe
  • Costumed:
    • Blue Screen [Vanessa Roberts] light controller but only blue-indigo-violet light.
    • Ms.-mer [Sherry Mack] Presumably some kind of hypnosis or mind-control.
    • No superhero name but goes by Wookiebird [Leah Hopkins]. Changes into either a yeti or a raven.
    • Plus [April Parsons]
    • No superhero name but goes by Gary or Snailien [Virgil Holt] Totem of the snail
    • Narcolepus [Brandon Wright] has some kind of mental powers and can leap.

Past, Present, Future

Because we know Future's actual name (Derek Vandervecken) research shows that his father's name is Gierd Vandervecken and his late mother was Margaret Vandervecken.

Any two of them could swap places: they could castle. (In fact, all three of them could do it but they weren't going to reveal Past until necessary. It was a small accurate Teleport (rank 5, I think) with a medium that limited it to any of the other two.


Future was the speedster archetype from the book with the addition of castling and the shunt or procrastination power: Affliction, does only second degree damage if he gets a second degree result, makes target unaware for the rest of the round, ends automatically, moves target one round into the future. It is an interesting idea but wasn't a fun power to use, so I used it once on a PC and any other time on an NPC.

Arguably this should have been from a level 3 Affliction result.


Present had a rank 10 attack which had this effect: the person affected could not sense anyone else. The person was still there (and could still communicate mentally) but couldn't sense anyone else. I bought it as Illusion, but it occurs to me you might be able to do it as an Affliction. Either way, making sure all the sense are covered is expensive. This had the flaw Concentration, so later when his bell got rung, everyone found themselves back in reality.

Because I gave him no defenses other than his actual toughness (from Stamina 5) and one point of Defensive Roll, I made him hard to hit. I think that was the wrong decision (though thematically justifiable); he should probably have had higher defenses but been easier to hit.

Because the fatherhood, Present, had the coin, he could decide who had powers and who didn't...the coin was essentially a MacGuffin to empower everyone.


Largely things added to the Silver Scream write up. She had poltergeist-like abilities (Move Object) but they didn't come up, per se. She was holding the room together, which I modelled as Create to model telekinesis holding together the classroom, with the limitation that there actually has to be something to hold together, and the flaw Concentration.

Though she had invisibility to all parts of the spectrum, I fudged it and made her visible by IR because she created a cold spot where she was.

Bureau of Extremely Foreign Affairs

In Canada, the Bureau is a subset of the state department, known by various names over its history but "Ministry of Foreign Affairs" is sufficient. It deals with trade and diplomacy with political entities outside Canada. (Other ministries might or might not have departments that deal with parahumans, depending on their remit. The Department of Defense certainly does, and so does labour.)

In this case, they are concerned because while super-science doesn't necessarily fall into their area, magic definitely does. Because magic often involves pantheons of god-like beings with whom we have trade in some fashion. Ever get a boon from a fairy godmother? How is that taxed? Ever moved to an alternate dimension? Will that have diplomatic consequences?

So the agents and bureaucrats of the BEFA tend to be blase about their work and perhaps have an inflated sense of its importance...because unchecked access to alternate civilizations, timelines (the BEFA covers all times before 1867), and technologies. They also occasionally have access to resources that are unusual, like magic sniffer Kay Hunter.

Guy Beech is an attractive man of colour in his mid-thirties, probably raised in Montreal. He's almost six feet tall. His stats are pretty much out of the book, and he's PL 4.

Fay Hunter is an average-looking woman who is also of colour, but the colour seems a bit off. Brown, yes, but it doesn't look like a normal human skin tone. She normally lets Agent Beech do the talking. From her confession and her attitude, we presume that she can find magic sources, or at least those of a particular set, and the presence of at least one of those magic sources agitates her. (She didn't seem agitated at Geodesic's home.) Her ability to detect magic probably gets her leeway in the regimented world of agents.

Monday, October 28, 2019

The Bureau of Extremely Foreign Affairs


In my games, we sometimes deal with the Bureau of Extremely Foreign Affairs, which started as the Canadian department for dealing with extraterrestrial civilizations. There is a bureaucratic arm and an investigative arm.

For this week's adventure, I have modified the BEFA for superheroes. They are a subdivision of the department of Foreign Affairs, and they deal with extra-normal political entities.

While high technology and super-science might not fall into their remit, magic almost always does. Trade something with fairyland? They deal with the excise taxes. Granted a boon by a Lovecraftian cosmic horror? They put a dollar value on it or determine if it's dangerous to the public safety. They also deal with the local equivalents of Atlantis or Themyscira. Heck, they might be responsible for extradimensional refugees, or be the department that calls your heroes when Galactus arrives. ("He has refused normal methods of communication and I am sure we don't want a repeat of the Thanos issue. The deaths and rebirths alone cause an incredible number of headaches.")

In the Dr. Why adventure, they can occasionally borrow from the Department of Defense a magic-sniffer (who is not without her own problems) to find, say, a previously-shielded magic power source of unknown provenance, which might indicate illegal trade, smuggling, or the existence of a previously-unrealized pantheon.

And just having thought about them this much makes me want to do a short BEFA adventure.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Dr. Why: Orientation (Mutants and Masterminds Hero High)


  1. Setup
  2. Orientation
  3. Midterm
  4. Term Paper
  5. Final

Session 1: Orientation

James Nicoll, one of the players, provided this summary of the session. I'll try to provide the GM's view of things, but in point form, maybe emphasizing the things I have to remember for future sessions.

  • One of the guards was clearly a physical cut above the usual community college security guard. ("Hired for the occasion" would have been the story if anyone has asked.) That guard conveniently disappeared during the brouhaha. PCs suspected that was either because he caused it or he needed a private place to change into a costume.
  • Tech-Head and Geodesic overheard someone being denied entry to backstage. He claimed he thought it was a bathroom (“I really need a bathroom”) Geodesic recognized the mid-forties male as Gabriel duVernay, a local reporter who does print and video, and distrusts corporations, rich people, and supers.
  • Princess sat about of the third of the way down the row of seats. Between her and the aisle was an attractive woman of Indian heritage (Priya Nayyar).
  • The woman on the other side of Princess claimed to have dated Doctor Why two decades ago; Doctor Why doesn't look any older. When pressed, she admitted that Doctor Why was good in bed. (Her name was Cassidy Graves, not that anyone ever asked.)
  • Princess did notice a guy in a bunny costume. Maybe twenty percent of the audience was dressed as a super or had obvious manifestations. On the other hand, the place was also lousy with journalists and fans and thrill-seekers.
  • The Power Corps showed up to steal the android because they need the parts. Numbers 1, 2, 4 and 7 showed up. The plan was to go in through the fire exit, steal the android, and get out. Easy.
  • They were discovered by Gabriel duVernay, who finally managed to get backstage. He had a scream that was gender-inappropriate.
  • There seems to be some family resemblance between the Power Corps armor and Tech-Head's armor.
  • Actually getting the power source out was tough: DC 35
  • Eventually defeated because it was wireless. Removeed the power source, put it in a Faraday cage, and it had to make a check to see if batteries come online properly. (They didn't; safety feature.)
  • Tech-Head stashed the robot's power source in his mom's garage.
  • Princess saw Dr. Why slip his hand back into his restraints at the end. This lead to some speculation on the part of the players: was he ready to escape and rescue them if necessary? Or was he running the robot with a stolen and modified XBox controller? (The latter seems unlikely because people would have seen...but hey, maybe.)
  • Anyone who acted (the PCs especially, but there are others) got registration/tuition paid for by the foundation that Dr. Why controls (the Alexandrian Lighthouse Foundation).


Bruiser (Pl 8)


  • Tough skin: Impervious Toughness 10
  • Good jumper: Leaping 5
  • Alt: Earthquake: Damage 8 [Punching the ground; Burst Area, Flaw: Contiguous solid surface]
(16 points)

Equipment 6 [he likes stuff], Great Endurance, Diehard, Fast Grab, Improvised Tools, Throwing Mastery 2, Beginner's LuckAthletics (+11), Close Combat: Punch 1 (+5), Deception (+3), Expertise: Construction 6 (+7), Expertise: Architecture 1 (+2), Insight 2 (+4), Intimidation 4 (+7), Perception (+2), Persuasion (+3), Stealth 2 (+5), Technology 2 (+3), Vehicles 4 (+8)
This and the equipment advantage are here mainly because the character is designed as owning things, including a car or laptop or smartphone or gaming system; filled in at the player's whim.
OffenseTo HitDamageInit +3
Groundsrike (burst, requires contiguous surface)8 
Thrown item+412 
DefenseDodge 3Parry 4Toughness 12Fortitude 12Will 2
  • Buy stuff, impress babes
  • The three Fs start with fleeing, and I don't flee.
  • Is this what my life will be?
Power Points Abilities 80 + Powers 16 + Advantages 11 + Skills 13 + Defenses 0 = Total


Replay is a mimic android, created as security. It scans individuals nearby, one per round, and copies any powers it can. This is most useful against groups: people are usually immune to their own powers, but not necessarily to the powers of their compatriot.

It does not have the self-learning capacities of the homicidal version: defeat it and it does the same thing again. However, it does have a known problem: it defends the area where it is activated and it scans individuals for an access badge; without the badge, anyone with powers is assumed to be a threat. (People without powers are not assumed to be a threat.)

Some other powers (the flight and the gravity binding field) are always there.

Because Replay's schtick is copying people (notably the PCs) I did not worry about numbers and balance. I gave it some levels so it would (fairly) be a problem even if it hadn't copied anyone's powers, and then let copying do the rest.

Replay (Pl 12)


  • Tough coating: Protection 10, Impervious 6
  • Antigrav repulsors: Flight 6
  • Binding Field: Move object, burst area, flaw: Only down 12


  • Mimic (variable, 7/rank, perception, ranged) 12
Beginner's Luck, Eidetic Memory, Evasion 2, Hide in Plain Sight, Improved Initiative 3Expertise: Superhumans and powers +20, Perception +15, Stealth +10
OffenseTo HitDamageInit +14
DefenseDodge 5Parry 5Toughness 10 (6)FortitudeWill 5
  • Cannot exceed its programming
  • Machine
  • Needs wireless access

Dr Why: Setup (Mutants and Masterminds Hero High)


This was originally one post. I've broken it into two.

  1. Setup
  2. Orientation
  3. Pop Quiz
  4. Midterm
  5. Term Paper
  6. Final

Because our regular DM is busy for a few weeks, started a small set of adventures using Hero High, though it's set at a community college.

Five sessions: “Orientation”, “Pop Quiz”, “Mid-Term”, “Term Paper”, and “Final Exam”. For various reasons, “Orientation” was mostly combat.

There's a story in my head but the important part is keeping it player-focused. Been a while since I ran M&M, so there were some teething pains. (Another reason why "Orientation" was so combat-heavy.)

The Setup

Famous hero Dr. Wye (or Dr. Why or Dr. Y) decided a year or so ago to avoid certain selected property damage in the aim of improving society. The owner of that property was understandably upset and prosecuted the good doctor. The courts wanted to be seen as tough on this sort of behaviour so they actually sentenced him to jail, with the option of doing community service to lessen his actual jail time.

Apparently, after a number of incidents in the communal areas of the prison, they put him in isolation and then probably begged him to do community service and shorten his inflammatory presence in the prison.

He has agreed to teach a course on superheroing. He is teaching it at the community college and he has made certain stipulations so that people with secret identites can attend and not have it traced back to them. That is, you can register in your probable hero ID, you can pay in cash, textbooks are given away free to those who are still enrolled after the course drop date, and so on. While there might be a record that Mighty Mite (for example) attended the course, no one should be able to tie that to shy college student Parker Peters, who was never in the class.

Available to Know

Expertise: Streetwise or police connections
0Because of an incident in the dining area, Dr. Wye is kept in isolation. He does have occasional access to the library and the recreation room.
5It doesn't appear to be a trick. If it's some scheme to get in jail to get someone else, that knowledge is way above any of the people talked to.
10The police are nervous about their abilit to keep Dr. Why if he decides not to co-operate, so they aren't going to release him from bonds. He's going to give the class while trussed like Hannibal Lecter.
15As a demonstration of his own hubris, Dr. Why has brought along Replay, the original test version of the android whose later versions became Organon, attempted world destroyer. (Organon has a series of factories world-wide and rebuilds itself without the flaw it had last time.) Replay has many more accessible parts and exploitable problems and does not improve itself. Besides, it's deactivated....nothing could go wrong.


Because time is short and our sessions are short (we play for two hours, three tops), half the folks didn't want to create characters; instead, they took archetypes from the Hero High book. Of the other two, one created a character and one asked me to create a character. The one I made is below.

The archetypes chosen were Alien Exile and Tech-Head. We don't have any details about the Alien Exile yet except that she seems obsessed with the two factors of Not Appearing Different and sex. (I believe her early exposure to mass media have taught her that everyone asks about sex all the time, and that the proper clothes to wear in all environments are a tube top, shorts, and go-go boots.) The Tech-Head is named Clark Wayne, keeps stuff in his mom's garage, and liberated his power suit without permission. We have tied the suit into the Power Corps and Dr. Why somehow.

For the purposes of this description, the tech-head character will be Tech-Head and the alien exile Princess.

First session actually played October 23, 2019.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Emperor Biff


When I ran The Sugar Hill Invasion for Babies With Knives I needed to make some changes because one of the players wasn't thrilled with the adventure as he'd seen it before.

I've always loved the trope of fallen-cosmic-threat, at least since I saw the Lord of Order incorporated in Kent Nelson's old body in William Moessner-Loaebs' run on Doctor Fate, so I decided that it would be nice to use that as my magic-explaining-device. So I created Emperor Biff, and I offer him to you.

Emperor Biff (aka Empyreanus Bane)

Emperor Biff is an eight-pound long-haired chihuahua. He used to be a being of unimaginable cosmic power and now he is reduced to this. He is under guard/owned-by the significant SHIELD/STAR/PATRIOT/PRIMUS/Argus/whatever organization in your game, the one that deals with cosmic or mystical threats.

A spell has trapped the essence of Empyreanus Bane in this dog. They don't know if the dog is now immortal or not; they don't know what will happen to the essence if the dog dies. Therefore the organization protects him. Keeping him on base with other trapped cosmic beings is less risky than having him in someone's home. (For one thing, the base is armored.)

The dog can talk. He is prone to referring to humans as "pokes of meat and heartbreak" and once referred to his current predicament as "a ton of cosmic mastery in a five-pound sack." He is haughty, mouthy, sarcastic and seems utterly unwilling to escape, possibly because of Rainbow.

Rainbow Timm is the young daughter of Dr. Timm, one of the researchers in the organization. Dr. Timm has no spouse, so Rainbow is often in the complex. Rainbow likes to dress Emperor Biff in doll clothes and have elaborate tea parties. Rainbow and the Empyreanus Bane have formed a connection.

Dr. Timm is not sure whether the connection manages to control Emperor Biff or this is an eventual escape route for Empyreanus Bane. Perhaps when the dog body dies, the Bane will move to the attached victim. Regular scans by a magician show nothing, but...

3 4 1 5 4 2 3
  • Occult Master
  • Performance: Rituals Expert
  • Stealth
  • Dog senses: Fair (4) Super-senses (Smell +2, Hearing +1, Tracking Scent)
  • Bite and Claws: Poor (1) Slashing
  • Cosmic connection: Good (6) Detect Cosmic events
  • Former cosmic menace: Average (3) Magic
  • A talking chihuahua, with dog limitations (small, etc.) and unable to perform rituals because of lack of hands
  • Former dimension-spanning conqueror
  • Loyal (to his great shame) to Rainbow Timm

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Mr. Verity


For your vigilante-style adventures awash in the mire of the streets...

When a mob boss needs to hire a supervillain, he wants to know if the guy's gonna do the job and hand over the item or try to keep it. Or worse, if the guy's actually a superhero in disguise. That's when he hires Mr. Verity.

Mr. Verity can tell if someone's lying just by being in skin-to-skin contact.

But Mr. Verity doesn't admit to *all* he can do. He doesn't, for example, talk about the "keep Mr. Verity safe" mental blocks he lays down. He doesn't even admit that he can do that. "Oh, no, just a fancy lie detector, that's me."

And he knows things. Comes of poking in minds as he does. And sooner or later, he's going to orchestrate an action that involves the heroes...



3 4 3 4 4 7 10
SpecialtiesBusiness, Law, Power (Mind control)
  • Detect (truthfulness) Great (6)
    • Limit: Close (must be in skin contact)
    • Extra: Telepathy
    • Extra: Mind Control (both share the limit)
  • Mental Resistance Average (3)
  • It's just business
  • Close to the vest
  • A pre-emptive nudge is okay

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Some Halloween ideas...


Gah! Over a month! Here, have this!

Halloween ideas

Being some things that popped into my head if you wanted to, oh, slot a Halloween-themed adventure into your superhero campaign.*

*Might not be suitable for all superheroes. Might not be suitable for all campaigns.

The problem with superheroes and holidays is that superheroes imply control and power, and being frightened implies not. But I'm willing to steal the trappings for the holiday.

  • Superheroes chase the ghost of Jack the Ripper (or cause of Jack the Ripper) before he kills again.
  • Werewolves invade from another dimension. When they're not wolfy, they look just like regular folk, so it's hard to find them.
  • Superheroes journey in the nightmares of a catatonic superhero who can save the world, making a fantastic voyage to the trauma at the source of all of this catatonia.
  • Death takes a holiday...and in the midst of suffering folk who cannot die the heroes discover that Death has in fact been kidnapped by an elderly sorcerer who wants to live forever. (Image: Death is trapped in a snow globe paperweight, which each of the characters suddenly seems to own...)

    Of course, the early part of this adventure needs to involve a Punisher-style vigilante who is being chased by the people he's trying to kill. Because if you can't kill them, you aren't nearly as much of a threat to them...

  • Ambrosia Valentine has a goal: the elimination of all monsters. And all she has to do is kill a few people who are important to the PCs, to get the ingredients for the ritual that will transfer all of their abilities to her. She asks the heroes to kill her after she completes the ritual...and she doesn't bother to mention the necessary deaths. (Hey, she's willing to lay down her life for this...what's a few loved ones of superheroes extra?)
  • An occult research comes to the heroes with news: their powers are weakening the walls between universes and inviting the bad Lovecraftian things. Do the heroes give up their powers, especially given that kaiju are about to attack the city? And is it all secretly a ploy by their arch-enemies, Malice in Plunderland?

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Improbable Tales Volume 1, Issue 4: Vampires of Red Square


Obligatory Warning

If you are spoiler-wary, this entry and this series is full of spoilers for a six-year-old product. If you don't want to know what's in one of Fainting Goat's first eleven Improbable Tales adventures, well, don't read this. Okay? Okay. Today we'll talk about the third volume in the series, Vampires of Red Square, written by Mike Lafferty, Dan Houser, & Chris Groarty, with art by Adrian Smith, John Gibbons & Dan Houser. I have not run this one.


A time-traveling Nazi commando unit arrives in Moscow, and the head Nazi decides to create four dozen vampires and take over.


Uh, what part of “time-traveling Nazi vampire commandos” did you not like? I'm totally biased: vampires and werewolves are two of my favourite flavours. The military aspect of it initially put me off, but once I got the vibe I quite liked this. It's goofy fun with an emphasis on fun: The bad guys are undeniably bad (there are no shades of gray in this one). One of the optional endings has a big fakeout which I like; there's no explanation of how Mannheim knows the important detail, so you'd have to invent that, but it's a really nice fakeout, and it gives the whole thing a fine reason to actually be in Moscow. These are pretty decent vampires, in mild and spicy flavours. Haven't tried the werewolves out. Oh...there's another optional ending with a giant undead Lenin striding through Red Square. That's just cool. And later you have Nazis who want presumably to get back to their home time and “fix” things.


None of these are big dislikes, but they did come to mind. The bad guys have created a few dozen new vampires...that is, killed a few dozen people. If you're running a strictly G-rated campaign, then you need to think about this. Maybe it's a spell by Mannheim and the vampires get better if Mannheim is himself destroyed (hey, it worked in Batman comics when Doug Moench was writing it). Maybe the sudden appearance of light will shock them back to human because they're only pseudo-vampires at this point. PATRIOT gets bigger and bigger: in this adventure, it operates in Russia. On a per-adventure basis, it exists to make things easier to set up, but it feels like as a whole, there's an organization that could do some harm. Given the organization's name, I feel like it should be restricted to the USA, and it's a paragraph to introduce the Russian or the international agency. Not a big deal to fix in your game; they're actually working for MATRYOSHKA or IDES (International Directive for Espionage and Supers) or COINS (Cooperative Oversight for Investigation of Normals and Supers). One of the villains, Dr. Night, has magic at a level of 7. The appearance of a wizard with magic 7, a vampire infestation, possible werewolves, and a couple of sorcerous totems has to get the Necromancer's attention, but he's not mentioned. I understand that the adventures are not really joined, but the existence of the PATRIOT name does indicate some kind of shared world, so it would be nice to include a line like, "Off fighting Dark Pharaoh."

Changes and Consequences

Well, you need to justify the absence of the Iron Hand and of Necromancer. Dr. Night has Magic (well, originally Wizardry) 7. Necromancer, from last adventure, has the same power but at level 8. You'd think Necromancer would care about the appearance of Herr Doktor Nacht, but he does not show up. (In the real world, that is because John Post didn't write the adventure, and because adventures come in when they come in, but we are not concerned with such mundanities.) Or I'd throw it all in: the Iron Hand brings a sub up the Moskva River, Necromancer appears and is immediately caught up with the Dark Pharaoh, giant ants appear...okay, strike that one. But I might consider complicating it even more, especially if it's early in the campaign. (Complicate early, prune later.) The growth of PATRIOT is a seed you can cultivate for later: does every UN country have a version of PATRIOT? Is PATRIOT a loose association of organizations? Or is it a single “super-organization” that fights its own political battles? In these adventures, PATRIOT is used as a means to hand PCs stuff in a convenient way, but you could do a whole PATRIOT centered organization, or you could do a Captain America: Winter Soldier thing where you bring it down—“Patriot? But patriot to whom?” Or I'd create some kind of excuse—that PATRIOT was helping unofficially—and I'd springboard the creation of some global spy/superhero agency from it. Then you could call them when you need to go to, say, Tokyo in an upcoming adventure. Having said all of that, this is actually the last time that PATRIOT takes an active role in Improbable Tales, Volume 1. In adventure 5 (Dr. Warp) the army takes their place; they get name-checked in adventure 10 (Through the Looking Glass) but don't actually show up.

Assembled Updates

Part of the drill is that Invulnerability becomes Damage Resistance; Life Drain becomes Energy Drain; Wizardry becomes Magic (except when it becomes Gadgets).

Vampires in general

Invulnerability becomes Damage Resistance, with the Limit: Not vs. silver or holy weapons. Immortality gets the Limit: Negated by sunlight or beheading. Life Drain becomes Energy Drain.

Vampire Troopers and SS Vampires

Replace their aspects with these three Qualities:
  • Undead vampire
  • Vampire weaknesses; a stake through the heart causes a Stun result that lasts until the stake is removed
  • Must drink blood to survive (only Energy Drain recovers Stamina

Baron Mannheim

Replace his aspects with these three Qualities:
  • Time-Traveling Nazi Vampire Commando
  • Vampire weaknesses; a stake through the heart causes a Stun result that lasts until the stake is removed
  • Must drink blood to survive (only Energy Drain recovers Stamina
In the normal case, Nazi and Vampire are his prime motivations.

Doctor Night

Replace Wizardry with Magic; replace Summon with Servant. Perhaps ignore the mental attributes of the demonic minions; I discussed this in the last adventure. His aspects become thse Qualities:
  • Undead Egyptian sorcerer
  • “For the glory of Set”
  • The true goal is ruling Egypt


To his Hellfire Thrower, add this Limit: Blows up for Amazing damage if ignited by called shot. And his aspects become these Qualities:
  • Occult Nazi Stormtrooper
  • Grotesque physical appearance
  • A melding of man and magic


Change the Invulnerability to Damage Resistance (Limit: Not vs. silver); the Alter-Ego should be Transformation into an animal form with a limit that each Blutwolf becomes itself as a mundane wolf...or I'd drop the power, because it's really no different than Billy Batson saying "Shazam!". Its aspects become these Qualities:
  • Forest creature mutated by Mannheim
  • Extra vulnerable to silver (+1 degree of damage)
  • Bloodthirsty Feral Berserker

Night Hunter

I'd actually give him a level 5 in Vehicle because I'd beef up the cycle a bit. (See next section.) His aspects become these Qualities:
  • Agent of PATRIOT
  • Brusque demeanor over a caring heart
  • Finds and kills vampires


This adventure presents three vehicles that have to be updated to the Icons Assembled rules: a cargo truck, a helicopter, and a personal skybike, apparently part of PATRIOT issue for some agents. However, the vehicles really are movement devices and should be represented as vehicles.


HandlingGreat (6)
SpeedFair (4)
StructureFair (4)
ArmorWeak (1)
  • No protection in combat
  • Remote Control
  • Hidden bolo-gun (Good (5) Binding)

Cargo Truck

HandlingFair (4)
SpeedFair (4)
StructureGreat (6)
ArmorWeak (1)


HandlingGreat (6)
SpeedGood (5)
StructureAverage (3)
  • Door-mounted machine gun (Good (5) Blast)


A lot of moving parts to play with. I'd still say this is an A, but if you have used PATRIOT or vampires before, it may leave consequences for you to clean up.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Improbable Tales Volume 1: Aqua-zombies of the Kriegsmarine



This one took a while, because there were a lot of characters to update to Icons Assembled and I made updating them part of this series. A couple of adventures in this series have a lot of NPC characters to change and think about (the third, fourth, and sixth, for instance). And I sometimes get hung up on things like, oh, the Servant power. The minions in the third, fourth, and sixth adventure should be called with the Servant power, but that power explicitly says that the summoned servants have no mental stats. I have chosen to interpret this as meaning that these are never characters who will decide not to fight, but it doesn't mean they have no mental stats. We could argue for a Minion power that does the exact same thing except the created characters have mental stats and aren't as loyal. Nertz to it.

Obligatory Warning

If you are spoiler-wary, this entry and this series is full of spoilers for a six-year-old product. If you don't want to know what's in one of Fainting Goat's first eleven Improbable Tales adventures, well, don't read this. Okay?


Today we'll talk about the third adventure in the series, Aqua-Zombies of the Kriegsmarine, written by Mike Lafferty, John Post & Chris McGroarty, with art by Adrian Smith & Jon Gibbons.

I have run this one; I ran it on Roll20 a couple of years ago.

Another disclaimer

By the way, I just noticed something. I've re-read these adventures several times, but sometimes I need to find a specific reference and I use Adobe Acrobat's search feature. That doesn't always work: something about the early adventures means that the text isn't there to be searched. (I presume they were saved as images or something.) So I may make an assertion and be wrong because it didn't come up when I searched the PDF. Bear with me if that happens; I'll apologize and take your corrections.


A sunken Nazi U-boat from WW2 is being hauled out of the water for a museum, but it contained canisters of an alchemical serum. One of the things the serum does is raise the dead as zombies, and yes, a canister ruptured. And to make it better, a neo-Nazi group and mystics want the remaining serum.

This is the first appearance of the Dark Pharaoh (and the Necromancer), and the Dark Pharoah plays a bigger part in adventure 6, The Other Side.

It's probably worth noting that the Necromancer and Dark Pharaoh characters are specifically called out as being the property of John Post. That isn't noted elsewhere, but John Post is one of the people who provided the idea for adventure 6.


This adventure has something I don't see as often as I'd like: an optional scene at the end. Everything is complete at the end of Action Scene 2, but if you have time, you can go on to scene 3, stormnng the base of the bad guys.

You get to stomp Nazi butt, which is certainly a comics thing to do, and it can be fun.

There's a robot squid. (The Improbable Tales adventures certainly bring the whacky without making it out of place, which I utterly admire...)

I haven't decided if this is a thing I like or not: Adventures 3 through 6 in this adventure all provide minions you can use lethal force on. Zombies, vampires, robots, and extradimensional monsters: great foes for the hero with a gun. They're a lesson in providing minions who are not human. But this adventure also provides minions who are human. You might not like the neo-Nazi members of the Iron Hand, but they are people, and the players are due for trouble if their characters fold, stab, spindle, or mutilate them.

And you get a map of a German U-boat and an island headquarters.

It's nice to see zombies buffed up for this adventure. Your typical superhero can just walk through a bunch of Icons Assembled zombies, and these are a bit tougher.


You have at least one powerful NPC floating around, so the adventure gives you advice on how to keep that character from stealing fun from the main characters. (But at least it gives you that advice, so put the fact of that in the Likes section.)

Minor historical note: this adventure calls out the German Thule society. I might be incorrect, but although a number of high-ranking German officers were mystics or inclined that way, I think that the practice of magic was banned by the Nazis before the war. However, (WW2 Nazi = Magic!) is so ingrained in comics that I doubt it's worth arguing about. Anyway, it's trivial to create a hidden magical society if one of your players talks about this.

There are a lot of NPCs in this. It's not too difficult to keep track of them, but you'd be forgiven for skipping the third scene just to keep the number of NPCs under control. (The third scene is fun, though.)

If you don't want to spread out to other countries and dimensions, well, it's possible to reign that in...but the next one explicitly takes place in Russia, and there's one in Tokyo, and one on there will be some travel in these adventures.

Changes and Consequences

The big one in this is the explicit mention of Nyarlathotep. This gives you access to all sorts of Cthulhu cults, gods, and mischief. >The Dark Pharoah is used again in The Other Side in a much more explicitly Lovecraftian way.

Be nice if the "celebrities" table on the beach were a throwback to the All-American. I mean, he is a weatherman in the area, and there's a loose continuity. If you want to bring him in, you can.

The next Improbable Tales adventure is Vampires of Red Square and I would think that elements from this one could well appear in that one. Perhaps the Iron Hand tries to recruit the bad guy from that (the Iron Squid sub can go up the Moskva River). Or perhaps the Iron Hand is using materials that were created by the Nazi magical society here, and there's future conflicts as the Red Square bad guys try to get them. Or the Iron Hand succeeds in recruiting that bad guy, but they offend his Aryan ideals with Cthulhoid apocalypses. Several possibilities.

The Lazarus Serum is also a useful MacGuffin. You can use it (with suitable changes) to bring some character back from the dead (“I see! They misinterpreted this code phrase in the works of Nicolas Flamel as this other code phrase, so they used Egyptian mummy dust instead of bitumen! Of course!”) By definition some of the ingredients in Lazarus Serum are so rare that the Iron Hand had to steal them, so when it's gone, it's gone.

One of the nice things here is the extra scene: if you don't attack the island base, some other evil organization might well have an island base you can attack.

Assembled Updates

In general:

  • Invulnerability becomes Damage Resistance
  • Wizardry becomes Magic
  • Fast Attack gets increased because it operates in a different way; upping it to the level of the most common attack attribute (Prowess, Coordination, or Willpower) seems the best way to go

The Dark Pharaoh

He has the power Minions, which was created by Fainting Goat Games. The best fit is the Servant power, with this caveat: the servants in the power are explicitly said to have no mental attributes, and these minions clearly do. So you have a couple of options:

  • Ignore it. You're going to create the Minions using the "Avatar of Nyalathotep" quality anyway.
  • Ignore the mental attributes of the minions listed. Some of them are other-worldly creations, and can't be expected to think like earthly creatures.
  • Create the extra "Sapient" for Servant, which costs like all extras, but adds an additional four points per rank. You do have to buy mental attributes now, but you have extra points to do so. For some kinds of servants (a summoned demon, for instance) you might want to include the concept that it works against its master but obeys the letter of the command. I don't think that's worth an actual Limit, though I would throw the player a point of determination if it happened.

In practice, I'd probably just ignore it and use the Quality, but if you will be handing this power out to a PC, well, the extra is probably the way to go. I haven't tried it, so I don't know if it's overpowered.

Demonic Minions, Minions of Nyarlathotep, Elite Commandos

Just change Invulnerability to Damage Resistance.

Mystically Enhanced Zombies and Commandos

No changes needed.

Commander Draco

Invulnerability becomes Damage Resistance.

His Qualities might be: Criminal leader of fascist terrorist group Iron Hand; Prone to rage; “Iron Hand—attack!”

Iron Hand Giant Squid Sub

This gets altered a fair bit to meet the rules for vehicles in Icons Assembled, and even this version doesn't meet them; it's a 41-point vehicle, which according should be a Speed 10 vehicle. It ain't; it might be better to go back to the original design and just have it as a full which case, you can use the writeup in the adventure. (I suppose you could grant an Extra that just doubles, the number of points, in which case this is the Vehicles power with that extra twice or three times, depending on whether the extra is geometric if applied multiple times or just additive.) Vehicles 3, Extras: Double pool points, double pool points, double pool points
Handling2 Speed3
Structure8 Armor3
  • Prowess 5
  • Tentacles (Extra Body Parts: grants Strength 7) 7
  • Aquatic 3 (speed only 2 out of water)
  • Fast Attack 5
  • Beak or tentacles (Slashing 5)
  • Damage Resistance (included above) 3


This one is fun. There are some nice pieces you can use; it's reasonably self-contained. Grade: A.